Pee-Wee’s Playhouse was just the kind of madcap, wacky kids show that adults could watch and not be bored to death. Pee-wee, aka Paul Reubens, utilized an arsenal of puppets, vintage cartoons, animation and guest stars to bombard tender young mind with as much surreal fun as half an hour could hold. The result is a children’s show that remains beloved to this day by most anyone who ever tuned in. Let’s take a look back at the wonderful world of Pee-Wee.
Reubens developed the character of Pee-wee, an exuberant perennial child, for his stand-up comedy and subsequent HBO special, The Pee-wee Herman Show. After the surprise 1985 hit Pee-wee’s big adventure, Reubens’ act was a hot commodity and CBS offered the comedian a sweet deal for a Saturday morning children’s show. The series used a lot of characters already present in The Pee-wee Herman Show and a talented art production team built a playhouse chock-full of fun objects and puppets. Last but not least, Pee-wee himself was always on a sugar high, brimming over with child-like enthusiasm that remains unmatched.
There was no set format for the show, just running gags and themes for the residents and guests of the playhouse. Pee-wee’s friends included several puppets like Chairry the talking chair, Globey the globe that assisted Pee-wee with geographical matters, Magic Screen, Pterri the pterodactyl, Jambi the wish-granting genie and Conky the robot who provided Pee-wee with a “secret word” each week. When anyone unsuspectingly uttered the word, the rest of the group would “scream real loud,” asking the audience at home to join in as well. There were several live-action characters other than Pee-wee, including Miss Yvonne, Captain Carl (played by Phil Hartman) and Cowboy Curtis (played by a jheri-curled Laurence Fishburne).
The show was a wild success across all age groups (except for really old people; they don’t like anything) and ran for four years. Pee-wee’s Playhouse had a bright future in reruns but Paul Reubens’ scandalous arrest at an adult movie theater forced CBS to yank (poor choice of words?) the series off the air. Fans have recently found reason to rejoice, however, as Paul Reubens, career resurrected, has taken Pee-Wee out of storage after two decades, to perform The Pee-Wee Herman Show live at the Nokia Theater in Los Angeles. He is also in production for a film version of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse. It’s this sort of perseverance that we’ve come to expect from Pee-Wee, and we wish him the best with his comeback.
If you grew up watching Pee-Wee’s Playhouse as a kid (or an adult), share your favorite memories of the show in our comments section, as we fondly remember this uniquely-entertaining children’s show, here at Retroland.